Pittsburg State University’s Axe Library is the new host of artwork from Environmental Graphiti, a nonprofit inspired by the science of climate change.
Titled “Vector-borne diseases,” the 30-inch-by-40-inch digital piece on metal emphasizes the proliferation of diseases spread by insects such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes and that are influenced by climate change.
Environmental Graphiti said that certain diseases are particularly sensitive to climactic conditions, such as dengue fever, which has shown a 30-fold increase over the past 50 years, as well as the virus behind the latest epidemic, Zika.
Tonya Pentola, supervisor of campus recycling operations, said she views the piece less through the lens of climate change and more through a perspective of global health. She suffers from Lyme disease, a diagnosis she received only a few years ago despite having experienced symptoms of the illness since childhood.
“It’s different for every person that has it, depending on your genetic makeup and certain circumstances, but with mine, I have whole-body pain to some degree,” she told the Globe. “I have severe fatigue that limits what I can and can’t do. After it goes untreated for so long, it can attack your organs and it crosses into the neurological (system).”
When Pentola looks at the mosquito in “Vector-borne diseases,” she thinks of how climate change impacts the insects that carry illnesses, such as the ticks that spread Lyme disease.
“Climate change affects the vectors — it affects how ticks migrate and everything about their habits,” she said. “When the winter is warm and we don’t have the cold to keep the tick (population) down, they’re much thicker. And the predators like possums and chickens that eat ticks, the climate gauges what their patterns are.”
The Environmental Graphiti collection, titled “The Art of Climate Change” and conceived by artist Alisa Singer in 2014, consists of approximately 60 digital paintings and two short videos. Individual pieces are available for exhibition, rental or sale to galleries, museums and the general public, with proceeds used to help fund the group’s efforts to enhance public awareness of the science of climate change.
“Vector-borne diseases” is part of a gallery that focuses on the various risks to life on the planet arising from climate change. Other works of art from the series focus on the science behind climate change, how climate change impacts the world and what can be done to address climate change.
“When I saw the vector-borne piece, I was just drawn to it,” Alicia Mason, associate professor and program coordinator for PSU’s sustainability, society and resource management degree program, said in a statement. “To me, this piece symbolizes the delicate balance between human health and the quality of our natural environment. To others, it will mean something else, which is the beauty of the art.”
Brian Peery, co-chair of PSU’s sustainability committee, hopes that the artwork will one day hang in a PSU Center for Sustainability. The university’s foundation is currently accepting public and private donations for the creation of such a building.
“Eventually, we would like to secure additional pieces of the collection that reflect the localized challenges we are facing in this area such as drought, water and waste management,” he said.